I confess, I was one of the guys holding his breath as Axford took the ball in the ninth inning of today’s 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. He got behind young slugger Jason Heyward early, and ball four was a pitch that bounced about four feet in front of home plate. Axford’s velocity has been fine, but his control seemed to elude him throughout the spring and as he blew his first save opportunity on Opening Day. I was really starting to sweat when Axford started off two-and-oh against Alex Gonzalez.
But all my worrying was unnecessary. Axford recovered and struck out Gonzalez on a foul tip, and started off the next two batters with strikes. Both at-bats ended with the ball in play, but in the gloves of Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan, respectively.
So with two wins in the books, Brewers nation can climb off the ledge after their 0-4 start.
Fielder was back to his old self today, sort of. He’s still searching for home run numero uno, but he did have three solid hits and had a hand in each of the five Brewers runs that crossed the plate. Bet he’s happy to get that off his chest.
Gomez was back to his old self, too, but that’s not such a good thing. He could have given the Crew an insurance run in the bottom of the 5th had he taken any kind of slide into home plate from third base. Instead, he did some sort of late belly-flop maneuver that allowed Atlanta catcher Brian McCann to apply an easy tag. Other than that, Gomez went 1-3 with a walk. Yes, a walk, bringing his on base percentage to a sparkling .227. I know it’s early, and I think Gomez has a longer leash than most think, but he’s going to need to improve both his average (.150) and on base percentage or else he’ll be watching Nyjer Morgan shag down fly balls in center the rest of the season.
And, last but not least, a big congrats to Marco Estrada on his first major league win. He pitched a very nice game, going six innings with four strikeouts and a walk. Other than a major mistake pitch that Heyward hammered into the right field bleachers for three runs, Estrada had decent control, throwing 54 of his 83 pitches for strikes. He relied mostly on a 91-92 mph fastball, mixing in an occasional curveball and changeup. I know he was primarily called up for this start, but I’d expect him to stick around for a little while while Zack Greinke continues to rehab.